Employers forced to repay workers for refusing minimum wage

More than 26,000 workers for some of UK’s largest companies paid back £4m following action by HM Revenue and Customs

Tens of thousands of workers who were denied the minimum wage have received hundreds of pounds in back pay from their employers following tougher enforcement policy by tax inspectors. Over the last year more than 26,000 workers were paid back £4m after action by HM Revenue and Customs, who are responsible for enforcing minimum wage laws.

Some of the 1,693 complaints against employers for allegedly breaching minimum pay rules resulted in some of the UK’s largest employers being forced to repay hundreds of thousands of pounds.

Though they were unable to name the companies involved, HMRC said that during the last year:

A national retailer, which required its employees attend work before and after opening hours without pay, was ordered to pay arrears of wages of more than £193,000 for nearly 3,500 workers.

A multi-outlet retailer was ordered to repay almost £170,000 for more than 6,000 workers after requiring employees to purchase specific items of clothing from its shops, and a major fashion chain was ordered to pay its 90 unpaid interns almost £60,000.

Last year the Guardian revealed how theArcadia group who run Miss Selfridge and Topshop stores, had been forced to hand retrospective payments worth hundreds of pounds to dozens of its former unpaid interns.

Under the national minimum wage, which stands at £6.19 an hour for workers aged 21 and over, it is unlawful for organisations not to pay anyone who could be classified as a worker.

HMRC said on top of forcing wage payments, they had issued fines to 708 employers with 51 receiving the maximum penalty of £5,000.

Employment minister Jo Swinson, who has been driving some of tougher policies said: “Paying less than the minimum wage is totally unacceptable. Whenever we find examples of businesses breaking the law we will crack down on them.

“Supporting fairness in the workplace is one of our key priorities and the national minimum wage is one way of making sure this happens.

HMRC revealed that between 2012-13 a total of 17,775 people called the government’s Pay and Work Rights Helpline for advice or to report an illegal wage which, led to 1,408 investigations into employers.

Currently calls to the helpline from interns, who are working for nothing or for “expenses only”, are being fast-tracked to HMRC enforcement officers for investigation.

Swinson said the figures showed that HMRC “can really help people who have been underpaid to claim back the money they are owed.”

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady welcomed the enforcement action but called on HMRC to shame those involved. “These investigations show why more resources must be put into catching minimum wage cheats.”

“As well as handing out fines, the government must publicly name and shame all those rogue employers who knowingly underpay their staff.”

“Nearly a million UK workers rely on the national minimum wage, which has become a vital lifeline. There must be no hiding places for companies who flout it.”

Michelle Wyer, Assistant Director of HMRC’s National Minimum Wage team, warned that for the most serious of cases, criminal prosecutions could follow adding, “Paying the national minimum wage is not a choice – it’s the law. HMRC enforces the rules, protecting workers from rogue employers, ensuring they get at least the wage to which they are legally entitled.”

Source: The Guardian


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